Fire burns 500 acres northeast of Los Angeles

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LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A wildfire burned about 500 acres of forest Sunday, threatening hundreds of homes and an animal sanctuary north of Los Angeles, authorities said.

The blaze began about 2 a.m. in a rugged area about 20 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, fire officials said. About 400 firefighters were on the scene at Angeles National Forest, aided by aerial strike teams, said Los Angeles County fire Inspector Sam Padilla.

About 1,200 people were evacuated from two canyons as the blaze brushed up against some of the area's 450 homes and moved southeast toward city limits, said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Stanton Florea.

"It burned right down to a couple of neighborhoods," Florea said. It wasn't immediately known whether any homes had been damaged. Television images showed a trail of flames and heavy smoke on a pair of ridges littered with dry brush.

The fire was south of the Wildlife Waystation, an animal sanctuary and rehabilitation facility set on 160 acres. The nonprofit agency houses more than 400 animals, including lions, bears and deer. Officials were loading up the animals in case the fire switched direction.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Elsewhere in California, a wildfire in Napa Valley broke out Friday afternoon and had burned about 300 acres by Saturday evening, destroying a home and a barn and threatening several wineries.

The started when a car struck a rock, and strong winds in the hills near the wine country town of St. Helena caused it to spread quickly.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said about 100 residents left their homes voluntarily and more than 1,500 firefighters were called in to battle the blaze.

Full containment was expected Sunday.

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